Bava Metzia 55: What is a Penny Worth?
There is not too much one can do with a penny; so little, in fact, that the Canadian government removed them from circulation in 2013 with purchases rounded off to the nearest nickel. The Talmudic equivalent of the penny, the prutah, was also of little economic value, but it was of great significance. “There are five prutot” (Bava Metzia 55a), the Mishna teaches as it lists the five areas of the law where a mere prutah...Continue Reading »
Bava Metzia 49: What Did You Say it Cost?
“Ona’ah is four silver maot in twenty-four…1/6th of the price” (Bava Metzia 49b). The laws of ona’ah, price fraud, forbid one from selling above the market norm. The halacha recognizes three distinct forms of ona’ah. If the price of the object is more than 1/6th above (or below) the market price the buyer (or seller) has the right to void the sale. If the divergence is exactly 1/6th the excess (or deficient)...Continue Reading »
Bava Metzia 49: Let's Not Make a Deal
The Ramban, in perhaps his most famous biblical comment, notes that one can observe every law in the Torah and yet be no better than a dead carcass (Vayikra 19:2). Law embodies values but it is impossible to legislate every human exchange (see Ramban, Devarim 6:18). Those who so desire can manipulate the system finding lacunae in the law to “justify” taking advantage of others. Such is the case in the opening Mishna of the fourth...Continue Reading »
Bava Metzia 42: Where is My Money?
In our last post we discussed the responsibilities of a shomer entrusted to guard produce. The Mishnayot continue with a discussion of one’s responsibility when guarding a barrel, i.e., wine or oil, (Bava Metzia 40b) and, as we will discuss, the guarding of money. In Talmudic tmes banks as we know them did not exist; money changers served as the “investment bankers” of the day and the “dinar”, the dollar of...Continue Reading »
Bava Metzia 40: I Love My Fruit
“Milveh lhotzah nitna”, money is loaned to be spent (Kiddushin 47a). When one loans money it is with the understanding that the borrower will use the money as they see fit. It would border on the absurd to suggest that one must return the exact same money that one borrowed. It is the value of the money, not the money itself, that we return. Such is not the case when one loans, or even asks another to guard an object for him...Continue Reading »